I am absolutely astonished that neither Blake nor I have written about this dish before. It's one of those meals that has remained vivid and fresh in my mind some four years after I first dug my fork in. Why? Well, probably because it initially seemed so strange. Sure, pesto and pasta obviously pair well together, but what about those potatoes? How can this dish be anything other than a heavy, gluey, starch-filled mess?
Turns out that all that starch from the potatoes helps to lovingly coat the pasta, making each bite oddly creamy and rich. It's an astonishing trick, and one that makes this simple and humble recipe from Bon Appetit more impressive than it has any right to be. Everything is cooked in the same pot, then tossed in the same bowl.
If you buy pre-made pesto, then this recipe has just three other ingredients. But I've never found a pesto that could compete with the bright green and fragrant stuff I can make at home. It's what pulls everything together. Originally the recipe called for trenette, which is a thicker style of linguine. It definitely works, but I've always preferred the thicker and shorter rigatoni.
- 1 cup packed fresh basil
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 pound small waxy potatoes, quartered
- 6 ounces greeen beans, trimmed, cut into 3-inch lengths
- 1 pound rigatoni
Toss basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and garlic in food processor. Pulse until paste is formed, paste scraping down sides with rubber spatula once or twice. Transfer to bowl and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring 1 gallon water to a boil in large pot. Add two tablespoons of salt and potatoes. Cook potatoes until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside in large bowl.
Add green beans to pot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and add to the bowl with potatoes.
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, then drain. Transfer pasta to large bowl with potatoes and beans. Whisk half of cooking liquid into pesto, then pour into large bowl. Toss until well combined. If too dry, add remaining cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.